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Roland Dürre
Monday December 29th, 2008

(Deutsch) Nachruf: Pierre Mendel gestorben

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Roland Dürre
Wednesday December 24th, 2008

(Deutsch) 2-Wochen-News – #13

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Roland Dürre
Sunday December 21st, 2008

How to Fight Dementors?

Recently through an article in the IF-Blog, I projected the term “dementor” from the fairy world of Harry Potter into our real world. Now someone has asked me how I would fight dementors.

Whenever dementors appear in my vicinity, I get desolate, my heart plummets, everything seems to be pointless and dark fantasies pull me down, so that I feel like giving up! Fighting this is no easier in our world than in the world of Harry Potter.

For me, the great outdoors and activity have been helpful. Mostly, after half an hour of playing soccer, riding my bike (against dementors even through the rain :-)) or swimming, the dementors’ power over me weakens and I already feel better. While I experience my own body as something pleasant, my self-esteem grows, my sorrows get less desperate, and I get new courage for facing the dementors. So here is my advice in case one of the dementors makes his appearance in your life:

Get out of the house, enjoy the great outdoors and go for a walk, climb a mountain, go jogging, ride a bike or go swimming!

Then there was the next question: can we immunise ourselves against dementors?

We will never be a total success in that respect. To overcome dark hours during which dementors want to take away the meaning of our lives we should try to live our lives responsibly. We should be happy with what we have achieved. The people in our social environment love us, all we have to do is appreciate it enough and reciprocate. Then our immune system against all kinds of dementors will become quite strong.

🙂 I am afraid I, too, do not have much more to recommend.

RMD

(translated by Evelyn Gemkow)

Roland Dürre
Saturday December 20th, 2008

(Deutsch) Weihnacht 2008 – Alles Gute!

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Roland Dürre

Dementor Alarm!

Children like their parents to read to them. So, being a father of seven, know many fantastic, beautiful stories. There is Lotta (Astrid Lindgren), who can do almost anything, even get a Christmas tree when there is none left in the entire city, the small polar bear (Hans de Beer) who lives at the North Pole and is constantly in trouble, (unintentionally) journeying and winning many friends in the process, and the little witch (Otfried Preußler) and many, many more.

Now my children are grown up. They read their own books. Only Maresa still loves to read her. Now that she is twelve, Harry Potter is on the agenda. So these days, I read a few pages of Harry Potter to her twice or three times a week. I read a few pages, then continue after skipping dozens of pages, because the pages in between have been read without me. So, I shall never know the entire story, but it is enough to make me appreciate the world of fantasy created by Joanne K. Rawling. And I discover breathtaking similarities with our real (?) world. When I last read to my daughter, the dementors made a huge impression on me.

Here is the definition by wikipedia.

Dementors are wraith-like creatures in the Harry Pooter novelsnovels who can suck the happiness and soul out of a person, make them feel like they will never be happy again, feed on peoples’ happy emotions, and force them to recall the most horrible memories they have had in their lives.

The name dementor probably derives from “dementia” (madness).

When reading to my daughter, my perception of the dementors is as follows: their very closeness makes the room go cold, deprives you of courage, makes you feel hopeless and absolutely powerless. A dementor is the opposite of a good mentor. Rather than experiencing a dementor, you “feel” it (But that is an addition to the official definition not worth entering into wikipedia :-). Anyway I would also have a problem citing sources).

Unfortunately, in my everyday life, I detect more and more dementors and dementorism, both in my environment and in our entire society.

Impersonal systems, global developments that cannot be understood, incomprehensible laws, senseless rules and absurd processes, an inhuman bureaucracy, and much more take away our courage and strength. Unproductive but powerful departments of big enterprises have taken control. Attitudes that cannot be texplained develop from a strange mixture of fear, mistrust and the compulsion to conserve an advantage that is often just imagined. And in the end there are only losers.

Systematic rules override personal promises, yesterday’s agreements are forgotten, trust and reliability dwindle. We try to guarantee moral and ethical behaviour by “compliance” regulations using formalism and processes but achieving the opposite. Lies prevail and insincere behaviour alone makes survival possible. Corruption is replaced by pressure, blackmail gets to be a favoured way to achieve one’s goals.

Individually, we suffer from non-individualized leadership and behaviour that apparently runs contrary to rational thinking. The prevailing disorientation makes us fearful, panic generates conflicting and inadequate attempts at problem solving. And often we are liable to become agents of the system ourselves and act against our innermost conviction. Excess reigns, even when it comes to the use of our intellectual resources.

I therefore have a wish for the New Year: may InterFace like my own personal environment and that of my friends be spared such dementory in 2009. And here are two Christmas aimed at my readers: if you know a dementor or find dementorism anywhere, write a comment to us. Wouldn’t it be nice if the IF blog brought a sort of “gallery of dementorism” into being where we could occasionally de-mask a dementor, thereby taking away his power. And here comes another wish: if this (or any other) of our articles appeals to you, why don’t you recommend it (along with the IF blog)?

Many, many thanks!

RMD

(translated by Evelyn Gemkow)

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Here comes an article by our guest Florian Prange!

Turbulences of the international financial market causing a world-wide economic crisis again clearly show us one thing: our monetary and financial system is one of the basic motors in today’s society. Consequently, the basic rules of the financial market have a huge influence on our activities. They also eventually determine whether we succumb to a short-lived profit-orientation in a speculative capitalism defined by gambling, or if we turn to a path of development that encourages long-term and responsible economical behaviour.

Tax and financial politics work similarly, in that they – apart from directly regulating the public budget – also strongly influence the activities of economic players through a number of strong – and sometimes contradicting – motivational incentives. In doing this, politics often have more influence on the basic developments of our society than through formulating and executing goals in the political decision process. This is extremely evident when you look at environmentally detrimental subsidies and tax benefits granted through the federal budget under the aspect of motivation (in fact, it is evident as soon as the subsidies appear in the federal budget, rather than later when you look at them).

For instance, the constantly propagated important future goal of our government to invest in climate and education is grossly contradicted by what our money is actually used for in the federal budget. However, the actual dimensions of this aberration are only evident if, instead of just consulting the facts as written down in the federal subsidy paper, you also take into consideration the exceptions as written down in the various federal laws. Here, economically rational behaviour is hindered by a lack of transparency.

In order to document the actual extent of misdirected federal incentives, the forum ecological-social market economy (FÖS) sponsored a survey on the balance of all federal subsidies detrimental to the environment and climate done by Greenpeace in 2008. In all, we are talking approximately 34.5 billion Euros, which is about 13 per cent of the federal budget of 2007. If they were separately listed, ecologically counterproductive subsidies would therefore – along with what we spend on employment, social services and the federal debt – have a top position on the list. For instance, they are several times higher than what we invest in education and science, which is around 8.5 billion Euros.

For the big stone coal and nuclear power companies, the situation is particularly profitable: even though the direct subsidies for stone coal – currently around 1.8 billion Euros – slowly come to an end, the federal budget is still deprived of around 3.7 billion Euros because the environmentally detrimental coal is not or hardly subjected to tax. Brown coal, the most environmentally detrimental of all heating material, is subsidized with at least 200 million Euros. The directors of nuclear power plants profit several times over: being exempt from tax, they safe 1.6 billion Euros per year. Another 800 million Euros gets back to them through the tax exemption they are granted for planning a future nuclear plant deconstruction.

In the section of transport, the commuter bonus currently under intense discussion and meanwhile re-established by the federal constitutional court is only the tip of the iceberg. The lower mineral oil tax on Diesel petrol means 6.15 billion Euros less in tax every year, even though Diesel petrol emits more CO2 and carcinogenic particles than normal petrol. Petrol for airplanes being tax free means another 8.7 billion Euros. Airlines also save 600 million Euros in taxes because they pay no value added tax for long-distance national flights, while the federal railways have to pay the full tax. The federal bursar also does not subject privately used company cars – they often need enormous amounts of petrol – to much tax, which means another half billion Euros lost to him. Not to mention the billions of untaxed Euros claimed as depreciation when the cars are bought.

As opposed to this, the federal investments in education and science look gloomy, regardless of what the political elite tries to make us believe. Especially in an area that is extremely important for a country of few natural resources, the Federal Republic of Germany is near the bottom of the world-wide list. A study by OECD again revealed that Germany’s investment in education, at 5.3 per cent of its GNP, is significantly lower the average among the 30 most important industrial nations. According to the survey, the gap between Germany and other countries investing more into education continually grows. For example, in order to average the international standard of 5.8 per cent of the GNP, we would have to invest an additional 16 billion Euros. “Germany is losing ground”, is the laconic comment of the OECD survey. And yet we continue to accept that environmentally unfriendly behaviour consumes several times as much as the entire budget for education.

On the other hand, however, this misallocation of public funds also shows that a rigorous reduction of wrong financial incentives can open capacities for significant future investments. But in order to achieve this in the interest of the common good and future generations, politicians would have to be courageous and oppose individual interests of powerful lobby groups. Which, when all is said and done, is the encouraging message inherent in these originally depressing numbers: there is financial margin for a constructive future policy, and this chance is one we should use well

It is possible to conserve future resources!

The entire subsidy survey can be found at Greenpeace.

FP

Florian Prange is a mathematician and founder of ProjectComplexity in Hamburg. Since 2007, he has also served as board member of the Green Budget Germany, initiating the black book on ” subsidies and tax reductions detrimental to climate and environment” published for the years 2006-2008 by FÖS and several environmental organisations.

(translated by Evelyn Gemkow)

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Roland Dürre
Tuesday December 16th, 2008

(Deutsch) InterFace-Weihnachtsfeier in der Schmausefalle ♫

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Bernhard Findeiss

Scrum and CMMI (Part 1/2)

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